A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has fined former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, N200,000, following his absence to take his plea on an alleged N4.6 billion fraud charge.
Justice Daniel Osiagor, gave the order on Wednesday and also threatened to revoke the bail being enjoyed by Fani-Kayode.
Fani-Kayode; a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman; one Danjuma Yusuf, a former chairman of ALGON; and a limited liability company, Jointrust Dimensions Nigeria Ltd, were jointly arraigned before the judge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
But Fani-Kayode was granted bail in 2016 by Justice Sule Muslim Hassan, who has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Midway through their trial, the defendants’ case file was transferred to Justice Rilwan Aikawa on the ground that Justice Hassan was formerly an EFCC legal officer.
The defendant pleas were retaken before Justice Aikawa.
However midway through this second trial, Justice Aikawa was moved to another jurisdiction of the court; hence the case file was also moved to the new Judge, Justice Osiagor, for the matter to commence afresh.
On Wednesday, at the resumed hearing of the matter, prosecution counsel, Bilikisu Buhari, informed the court that second defendant, Fani-Kayode, was not in court to take his plea.
The prosecutor, therefore, prayed the court to revoke Fani-Kayode’s bail.
But Fani-Kayode’s counsel, F. B. Ajudua, prayed the court to drop the application, saying the defendant had sent in a letter explaining his absence.
Fani-Kayode, he explained, is on ‘bed rest’, at Kubwa General Hospital, Abuja.
Ajudua, Fani-Kayode had been readily attending his trial since the matter commenced in 2016, and this was his first absence.
He apologized for the defendant’s absence, and prayed the court not to revoke his bail.
Ajudua then applied for a short adjournment.
Justice Osiagor who perused the court’s records, he discovered that, contrary to the lawyer’s claim, Fani-Kayode had been absent from court five times already.
He noted the five-time of absence stalled the smooth hearing of the charge and then gave the lawyer two options of either to revoke Fani-Kayode’s bail or the defendant would pay a fine of N200,000.
Ajudua opted for the latter, following which the judge ordered that the fine must be paid before the next adjourned date.
He adjourned till November 30, for the defendants’ arraignment.